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An independent investigation has concluded that Prince Charles helped protect an old friend, former Anglican bishop Peter Ball, after Ball confessed to sexually abusing a novice.

The New York Times reported on the results of an inquiry into the way the church handled decades’ worth of allegations against Ball, who was first accused in 1969:

Upon being appointed bishop of Gloucester, in 1991, he was warned that “there should be no more boys,” the inquiry found. In 1993, Mr. Ball admitted to an act of gross indecency with a 19-year-old and accepted a police caution, which allowed him to avoid a criminal trial. He was forced to step down as bishop, but returned to the ministry within two years.

Only in 2015, after the investigation was revived, did Mr. Ball plead guilty to indecent assault and misconduct in public office in connection with the abuse of 16 boys and men who had come to him for spiritual guidance. He was sentenced to 32 months of imprisonment, but was released on parole after serving half the sentence.

The investigation found a tale as old as time. Ball had a lot of powerful friends who just couldn’t believe that he would do anything awful: “It is likely that they genuinely believed in Peter Ball’s innocence,” the report said, adding that, “These individuals could not conceive of the possibility that someone like Peter Ball could be guilty of such offending behavior.” Which is precisely the type of thinking and dynamics that enables abuse.

The biggest name among those friends was that of Prince Charles, and his testimony to the inquiry, reported in the Sunday Times in 2018, is a perfect illustration of how accusations can just bounce right off a good old boy network:

The prince said Ball told him that he had been involved in an “indiscretion” and that an individual with a grudge had been “persecuting” him. The prince added: “I was certainly not aware at the time of the significance or impact of the caution... Whilst I note that Peter Ball mentioned the word in a letter to me in October 2009, I was not aware until recently that a caution in fact carries an acceptance of guilt.”

He expressed “deep personal regret” that he had been deceived by Ball.

A spokesperson for the prince’s household, Clarence House, told the Press Association that, “As he made clear in his voluntary witness statement to the inquiry, at no time did he bring any influence to bear on the actions of the church or any other relevant authority.” But the inquiry refused to cut him slack:

Peter Ball sought to use his relationship with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to further his campaign to return to unrestricted ministry.... During the period of that campaign, the Prince of Wales and his private secretary spoke about Peter Ball with the Archbishop of Canterbury and a member of Lambeth Palace staff. In addition, the Duchy of Cornwall purchased a property specifically to rent to Peter Ball and his brother. The actions of the Prince of Wales were misguided. His actions, and those of his staff, could have been interpreted as expressions of support for Peter Ball and, given the Prince of Wales’ future role within the Church of England, had the potential to influence the actions of the Church.

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The future nominal head of the Church of England doesn’t have to come right out and tell them what to do in order to influence them. And this is precisely the sort of semi-formal—but still very significant—power that anti-monarchists point to as the problem with the continued existence of the crown.